Release Date: September 13th, 1965
Words by: Richie Ryan
September 17th, 2015
At the same time as when they released Help!, the Fab Four from Liverpool cried havoc and let slip the single for the LP’s penultimate track: “Yesterday”. And boy howdy, it caught on. Big. Time. Seriously, take a gander at…yeah, quite literally any of the “Most Covered Songs” lists peppered throughout these interwebs. Forever and always at number one, with its mind-boggling-to-the-point-of-incredulity 3000 covers, is “Yesterday.”
Alas, this ain’t about that “trouble seemed so far away” noise.
Recorded on the B-side of that timeless single was “Act Naturally” -- a lesser-known tune for the more casual Beatles fan. Penned by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, this little country western ditty was performed two years earlier by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, where it received some fame in its own right. Before Ringo even took it up, “Act Naturally” had already reached #1 on the Billboard Country Chart, much thanks to Mr. Owens.
The character of “Act Naturally” was a hopeful but struggling optimist. It’s easy to think of Ringo as that same poor cat; all sad ‘n lonely, carelessly shoved aside by that spotlight-hogging crumbum duo, Lennon and McCartney. No kidding. As it stands, of the 275 songs they performed, Ringo sang on a mere 11. So with “Act Naturally”, Ringo took full advantage of the occasional limelight.
Let’s be honest though, by 1965, the Beatles were nigh on soaring in popularity. Ringo was hardly the down-and-out fellow looking for some kind of happiness, yearning for that break -- big or otherwise. But he could play the part so well…It’s easy to think of Ringo as that same poor cat; all sad ‘n lonely, carelessly shoved aside by that spotlight-hogging crumbum duo, Lennon and McCartney.
With a flip of the moptop, Ringo belts out the hopes (“Might win an Oscar”) of some poor schlub just looking for some kind of happiness. He hammers on his kit such degradations (“Begging upon his bended knee”) and self-effacements (“The biggest fool that ever hit the big time”) you can’t help but root for the sad and lonely underdog.
Funnily enough, the film Help! was released in theaters just a few months before. While he may not have won an Oscar, Ringo enjoyed a most honored place in the plot as the target of a crazed Indian cult. When a fan is to be sacrificed, she sends the obligatory sacrificial ring to the unknowing Ringo in a fan letter. Hijinks ensue, as the Kali-worshiping Others hunt across the globe for a bewildered and unwitting Ringo who, try as he might, cannot pry the blasted ring from his finger.
You can almost see a parallel between the devious Thugee(ish) killers and real-life Beatlemania: accosted at every turn by an obsessed cult, all he had to do was act naturally.